29 June 2005

The Mud Shoe Diaries: Deer Park

Olympic National Park: Man, what a shithole. Posted by Hello


Do not be mistaken. The picture above is not the road to the Deer Park campground in Olympic National Park. This is the Hurricane Ridge road, which is totally for pussies, Fat Grammas, weiner dogs, Christian Harley Riders and other assorted Honkies. As in it's paved. And it has two lanes. And you can drive it without making a streak in your Underoos - none of which describe the road to Deer Park.

The Deer Park road is about nine miles outside of Sequim, and is easy to spot because there's a movie megaplex and a Toyota dealership flanking it. That is the last that you will see of civilization, so take a good look. Then you wind through a rather bucolic national forest/countryside populated by poverty-level cooters and a handful of Jodphur-clad Horsefuckers who ostensibly own the aforementioned serfs. After about eight miles of this, you take a sharp right, and the fun begins.

The pavement ends, the road goes to one lane, and the trees get a lot thicker. Calling it a dirt road would be generous. It's clay hardpan with rocks the size of baby's heads which either cover the road or shower down from the hillside as you pass by. I was lucky that I rented a four-by because I would not have been able to make it up there otherwise, I imagine.

So you wind all to shit through the trees and when you finally come out of them you see that you're hanging out on a hairpin curve around a rocky overhang where even sherpas fear to tread. Do not - I repeat - do not look down. Look only at the road. You will begin to believe that this road is not the road to Deer Park at all, and is indeed the road to Castle Dracula. That's okay. Let your cold reptilian fear and the inescapable bloodlust spell of Nosferatu drive you onward.

And all of a sudden you're there. Just like that. And you're way the hell up in the sky, right at the crown base of Blue Mountain. Everything is in bloom, so the air is rich with incense of the alpine meadows. The snowshoe hare bark and play, the willow ptarmigan pads quickly through the undergrowth, the red hawk drifts silently down from the belly of a cloud, and the white-tailed deer comes up and tries to steal your fuckin' lunch. Aah, wilderness!

There's a short half-mile trail that circles the top of Blue Mountain. At about 6AM last Saturday, I walked up to the peak and took in a 360-degree view of the Olympics. The sun caught clouds as they boiled up from the canyons, trying to make their way over the peaks. I looked down through an iris of three different layers of cloud cover to see Port Angeles floating at the edge of the Puget Sound almost twenty miles away. I coulda crapped, I tell ya! It was beautiful! I didn't want to leave. Ever. Somebody at work asked me if I got any pictures, which I didn't, but the thing of it is that photographs never do justice to the mountains anyway. They can't recreate the specific luminescent blue of glaciers and they sure as shit can't frame the vastness of whole mountain ranges. And they can't recreate that exhilarating vertigo.

If it wasn't that Teresa was making something that smells really good right now, I'd go on and on about Deer Park. But hey - the stomach commands and I must obey. I'll tell more later.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.

27 June 2005

Screw Bambi Already, Okay?

Just another shitty day in Olympic National Park. Posted by Hello


As you probably know, I went solo up to Olympic National Park on Friday to do some hiking and camping for the weekend. Yeah, it's beautiful. Yeah, it's like you've gone to heaven without benefit of dying first. Yes, I really did have the time of my life. I'll get to all of that in the next blog. Let me first address this one point, the fact that the most virulent of the Seven Plagues of the Northwest Woods[1] is the deer.

Fuck Bambi. Just fuck 'im. Him and all his little fagele woodland pals. (Okay, well, not his actual pals, like the Snowshoe Hare or the Willow Ptarmigan, but you get my drift.) Here's why:

So I'm camping in the Deer Park campground on the east side of the park - what is ostensibly the "dry" side of the park, the rain shadow - and I'm cooking up my dinner in my brand new Jetboil, which is my birthday present to myself. By the way, the Jetboil is the backpacking stove extraordinaire. If you have another kind of backpacking stove, you're a fool. This thing makes water hot enough for soup in 90 seconds. Ninety. Seconds. I don't know what part of the Space Shuttle they stole to make this thing, but when I was freezing my tarts off at 3AM and I was able to make a cup of Jasmine tea faster than you can recite the Visitor's Guide pamphlet for Dayton, Ohio - let's just say I was extremely thankful for grand-scale industrial larceny.

Okay, so, Bambi. So I'm making my dinner, which consisted of instant 4-cheese mashed potatoes with some mixed vegetables thrown in. Now in the Deer Park campground, which is a primitive campground that hangs out on a ridge at 5,600 ft. elevation, there are signs all over the place telling you to secure your chow or be prepared to fight the bears for it. They even have big metal food lockers for you to store your stuff in case you didn't come with a car to lock it in. I thought I was being extremely assiduous in the way I handled my food, but the one thing that the signs don't tell you is that these fuckers will come right up and try to snatch the shit right out of your pot. The deer, I mean.

So yeah, I'm eating, and up walks Bambi, giving me the "glad eye", and licking his chops. And I mean he walked right up to me, like less than a cubit away. And I'm eating and he's huffing and so I say "shoo", and what does he do? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing. Just keeps staring at me and licking his chops, like he's saying "Hey man. Hey. Whattaya got going there? Aaw, look at that. Four cheese mashed potatoes - my favorite! And look, you put the little carrot cubes and peas and stuff in it, just the way I like it!" So I go, "beat it!" And he's all, "Why you gotta be so aggro, man? It's says right there on the bag that it makes four servings, so that's, like, two each if we split it." So I stand up with my pot and start stamping my feet and walking him out of my campsite with a very stern "Go - the - hell - a - WAY!" To which he grudgingly shambles off while mumbling something like, "Yeah, way to go, you bur-zhwa-zee capitalist douchebag. Your karma blows, man. I hope you come back as a deer." To which I'm all, "Fuck you, hippie! Get a job!"

So was that the end of my deer encounter? Oh mais non. There's more.

I wake up at about 10PM (I go to bed early, like 8PM and generally get up at around 4AM), my bladder distended like a wineskin. I pull on my shoes, walk out of my tent, find the closest place to pee, and do so. I go back to bed.

Along comes 3AM, and what is this? A whole lot of huffing and snorting right next to my head. So I think it's maybe a bear, and I'm thinking I should probably get ready to make a shitload of noise and scare it off - but then - WHAM! - I get a deer-beak jammed right under the edge of my tent right next to my head. So then I think goddammit! and I grab my flashlight and whip open the tent door and shine it on the deer who does what? Yeah, that's right, just stands there and stares at me. It's the "deer in the headlights" thing, I guess. So I shout and wave my arms and the little bastard goes away. For now.

Here's a fact that I was previously unaware of. Unlike every other sensible animal on God's green Earth, deer apparently love human pee. Aside from being an abominable gustatory inclination (right up there with my little dog's love of cat turds), I suppose it's the salt they're after. So as you can probably guess, the deer come back with a vengeance, this time snorting, huffing, lapping the ground, pounding it with their hooves and ripping it up with their little deer teeth to get every precious salty drop from the humus. I know that there's a lot of talk about the gentle sounds of the north woods, the trills of birds, the gurgle of mountain streams, the gentle whisper of the wind in the pines, and all that may be true. But a little-spoke-of theme and counterpoint in the symphony of the woodlands is the huffhuffhuff thumpthumpthump ripriprip huffhuffhuff of the deer feeding on pee-soaked dirt.

So the moral of this story? It is this: if you want to get a good night's sleep in the North Woods, be sure to stow all your food in a secure place, and if you must pee, please do so at least thirty six miles away from your campsite or at the nearest Safeway.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.

[1] The Seven Plagues of the Northwest Woods: 1) Deer 2) SUVs 3) Gun-Toting Mulletards 4) Insolent Teens 5) Hippies (but not Oregon(tm) brand Hippies; Intolerant(tm) brand Hippies, also known as Trustafarians, Green Party Volunteers or Christ! What's That Smell!?), 6) Fat Grammas and Weiner Dogs, 7) Deer.